New research out of Spain suggests that manganese deficiency may be the root cause of osteoporosis in humans. Manganese, a trace mineral responsible for activating a number of enzymatic reactions, is also required for the absorption of calcium into bone. When manganese levels are low, calcium is excreted in urine instead of absorbed into bone.
Researchers identified this connection from an unlikely source, broken deer antlers. An unusually cold winter in Spain 2005 depleted plant manganese stores and by association, deer nutritional status suffered. A subsequent increase in broken deer antlers lead researchers to speculate a possible connection. Analysis of those antlers revealed lower manganese levels associated with lower calcium and higher osteoporotic like antlers – more breakage. The research has yet to be confirmed in humans, but other studies have observed lower manganese in post-menopausal women with osteoporosis.
Dietary manganese can be found in dark leafy greens, berries and several grains like spelt and brown rice.